ByTom Cox, writer at Creators.co
Staff writer for Moviepilot. Tweet me @thomascox500
Tom Cox

With the forthcoming The Jungle Book release date set for April 15, 2016, there's never been a better excuse to unearth your dusty VHS copies and discover the secrets of 1967's original.

To prepare you for the thrill of the new one, here are eight facts you (probably) don't know about Mowgli's first cinematic adventure:

8. The ghost of Walt haunts 'The Jungle Book'

RIP wizard dreamer
RIP wizard dreamer

Walt Disney died shortly before the film's release, on December 15, 1966.

He had been a chain smoker his whole life, which eventually lead to the collapse of his left lung and death from lung cancer.

Walt played a larger part in The Jungle Book than in previous films because of the relative failure of The Sword in the Stone (1963). His nephew Roy Disney said:

[He] certainly influenced everything about it. He obviously got hooked on the jungle and the characters that lived there.

7. King Louie is a newbie

In Rudyard Kipling's 1894 work The Jungle Book, fan-favorite King Louie and the human girl Mowgli leaves the jungle for (I know!) were not included.

Story writer Bill Peet created them as necessary devices for Kipling's plot to work in a children's film. He wrote the man-versus-nature theme of the book into the fabric of his screenplay.

Bill Peet
Bill Peet

However, his work was then rejected for being too dark. After an argument Peet left the studio forever, ending his 25-year professional relationship with Disney, but his new characters remained.

6. Mowgli loves animals...

...In real life! The voice actor behind Mowgli, Bruce Reitherman, is now a wildlife documentarian.

"Oh, Baloo, I wanna stay with you" - father and son
"Oh, Baloo, I wanna stay with you" - father and son

Reitherman has worked in wild environments from Alaksa to Australia; on documentaries published by PBS, National Geographic Television and The Discovery Channel.

As the son of the film's director Wolfgang Reitherman, he was also cast in another of daddy's films as the voice of Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966).

5. The vultures are half-Beatle

The four vultures in The Jungle Book (1967) were designed for The Beatles. Band manager Brian Epstein approached Disney about having the Fab Four in the film.

The fluffy critters' mop-tops and British accents, though not of Liverpool lilt, hint at this epic origin. Folklore states that Ziggy is John, Dizzy is based on George, Buzzy is Ringo and Flaps is for Paul.

However, Lennon vetoed the idea - telling Epstein that Disney should hire Elvis Presley instead. Not very peace and love.

Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy
Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy

The birds' one song, ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, rather than being classic ’60s rock, was stylized like a barbershop quartet.

But the lyrics "We’re your friends to the bitter end / Who come around / To pluck you up" do have a comforting Beatles-esque ring.

4. Did you spot the ‘Dumbo’ crossover?

Emmy-nominated actress Verna Felton voiced two elephants in Dumbo (1941), the Elephant Matriarch and Dumbo's mother, before lending her elephantine tones to the brown elephant Winifred in The Jungle Book.

Winifred was also the only female character to have a speaking part throughout the whole film.

The voice of trippy-eyed snake Kaa also appeared in other Disney films. Actor Sterling Holloway spoke as Mr. Stork in Dumbo, Adult Flower in Bambi, the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland and the Pooh himself in Winnie the Pooh.

3. The characters' names are Hindi

Rudyard Kipling, having spent many years living in India, named the animals after their Hindi counterparts.

  • Baloo - 'bear',
  • Bagheera - 'panther'
  • Hathi - 'elephant'
  • Shere Khan - 'tiger king'

This idea was later used in The Lion King for Swahili names, for example, Simba is the Swahili word for 'lion'.

2. Frames from 'The Jungle Book' were upcycled for other Disney movies

Spot the difference in these images:

Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book
Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book
Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book
Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book and Bambi
The Jungle Book and Bambi
The Jungle Book and Robin Hood
The Jungle Book and Robin Hood

No point letting a well-made images go to waste. Animators often traced over old frames to make new ones in a cost-cutting technique called rotoscoping, while subtly nodding to their previous work in new productions.

1. King Louie was racist?

Louis Prima
Louis Prima

Cultural scholars have accused the representation of the monkey as racist, saying he has overtones of a stereotypical African American identity. This feeling was sharpened by the tense racial climate in America at the time of the film's release.

However, Louie voice actor Louis Prima was a white Italian who was said to have used his normal voice. Although African American Louis Armstrong was considered for the part, producers opted for another jazz singer – fearing audiences might find Armstrong's casting racist.

Jim Cummings, the voice of Louie in the forthcoming film, is a white American born in Ohio.

Watch the trailer

For a gripping CGI-rendered Bagheera, to a spine-tingling 'Bare Necessities', watch the trailer for the new film:


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